Sunday, April 16, 2017

Traditional Sicilian Easter Cookies - Cuddura

Happy Easter!!! I would like to wish you and all your loved ones a Blessed and Peaceful Easter. Yesterday we made these Sicilian Easter Cookies which originated in Sicily but are made all throughout the south of Italy and are called Cuddura even though the name changes slightly with the different dialects of the southern regions.  

In the olden days, no meat, eggs or dairy were consumed during lent therefore when Easter came around all of the traditional desserts and dishes were very rich.  These cookies were made on the Saturday before Easter and brought to church to be blessed before giving them away to loved ones as an Easter offering.  Young ladies typically gifted their sweetheart with a cuddura in the shape of a heart as a sign of affection. How cute is that? I feel like everything is so different now a days and so much more complicated.  I guess I'm just too old fashioned... Now it's like you never know what to buy someone because everything is so accessible through online shopping and malls etc. Back in the day all it took was a cookie made with love to  let your sweetheart know that you were interested in him or her. 



Ingredients for the dough:

 - 600 grams of all purpose flour
 - 200 grams of butter
 - zest from one fresh lemon
 - 4 large eggs
 - 200 grams of sugar
 - 1 teaspoon of baking powder
 - pinch of vanilla extract

Mix all of the ingredients,  cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Prepare your hard boiled eggs ahead of time and let them cool. You can color them if you want or leave them as they are. I colored mine but since they were brown eggs the colors weren't as bright as I wanted them but they turned out fine all the same. 

The technique is pretty self explanatory so I'll leave you with the pictures so you can see what I did. 




After you roll your braid in a circle to place the egg on, you proceed to make a cross on top of the egg to hold it in place. 


Now brush a little egg white on top and add your favorite topping, sprinkles, chocolate chips, confetti, whatever you like. 




Now you're ready to bake in a preheated oven at 200°c for 35 - 40 minutes. 

This is my Easter offering to You :-)

Happy Easter my friends!



When our faith 

stands at the grave,
grieving
for a stone that's rolled away,
forgive us.

When our faith
is short of
understanding
though the truth is there to see,
forgive us.

When our faith,
beset by doubt, sees
no further
than an empty tomb today,
forgive us.

Bring to mind 
the cry of Mary,
‘I have seen the Lord!'
and grant us faith to believe!


God Bless, 

Silvana


Monday, April 10, 2017

Birthday Weekend Recap

Last week I turned 35... I was dreading this day because as of April 5th 2017 I am in an entirely new age range...Let me explain: I am a huge fan of Sex and the City and I own the entire dvd collection and never get sick of the show even after all these years.  I also know for a fact that Carrie's actual house is not really where they say it is and I know this because I dragged my mother and my boyfriend all over the Upper East Side looking for it last summer thus eventually finding out that the actual brownstone is located in Greenwich Village on the complete opposite side of the city...  Needless to say they were pretty mad at me by the end of the day and I had to listen to my mother say over and over again that I was trying to kill her by making her walk so much... ANYWAYS, I distinctly remember the episode (Season 4 - episode 1) in which Carrie turns 35 and she talks about checking the age box when filling out forms.... and that was all I could think about for the entire week... Yeah so, I switched boxes. Not cool. 

Anyways... aside from some temporary tears and depression... my sweetheart made a real effort in trying to lift my spirits and for this I will be forever grateful and he booked a one night stay in a Relais & Chateaux Luxury Hotel. :-)  It was truly magical! We had a spa session when we arrived and a three course candlelit dinner for two.  The Resort is located in the province of Perugia in the Umbria region.  Borgo dei Conti Resort is an estate that originated as a fortress in the twelfth century and was later inherited by Count Bernardino Rossi and his wife Countess Angelina Scotti of Perugia in the second half of the 19th century. It includes a 50 acre park with trails for hiking, a gourmet restaurant, outdoor and indoor pools and a wellness center. 

   This is the entrance to the hotel. 
Below is a picture of the entrance to the park/forest and some other pictures I took of the external grounds. 




This is the fitness area with huge windows overlooking the park. 

Inside it was a mix of modern and classic.  I personally thought that they should have stuck with the classic decor but that's my humble opinion.  I'm not too into mixing modern with baroque. However it was beautiful nonetheless. 


I absolutely fell in love with this mirror. There were so many beautiful antique mirrors. 


We stayed in the Countess suite.  At the time the Count and the Countess slept in separate rooms. The room had a gorgeous fireplace and original fresco's all around the room. 


There is also an adjoining library which was connected to the Countess and Count suites. The door pictured below is the entrance to the Counts orginal bedroom while ours was on the other side. 


The library had Dante Alighieri's Divine Comedy transcribed on elephant folios which you can see pictured above. Each book contains one of the three canticas: The Inferno, The Paradiso and The Purgatory. 







This is the fireplace in the library...swoon!!

Pictured above is the restaurant which was originally the ballroom in the 800's. I had a squash risotto with truffle and pistachios. It was seriously exquisite...like I literally have no words to describe it other than amazing.


Then as a second course I got grilled lamb chops with an olive tapenade over sauteed zucchini...also amazing and cooked to perfection. 


I had a magical time and while I was there I forgot about all my problems and of becoming older and just enjoyed my time with my sweetheart.  We really needed a nice romantic getaway both as a couple and for each of us individually. A little TLC is necessary at times.

...And for one day I truly felt like a princess in an enchanted castle...
(no matter what age box I'm in)


Have a great week friends!

xoxo, 

Silvana

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Summer Vibes - My Favorite Vacation Spots in Italy

I am SO excited about summer vacation approaching! I'm really looking forward to visiting some new places this summer.  My mother will be here for the month of August and this year I wanted to go somewhere different from our usual vacation spots. I'm sure I've mentioned this before but if not my mother is from the Puglia Region specifically from the town of Brindisi which is basically located at the heel of the "boot"...I know, I'm so geographically technical LOL...

So our vacation spots are usually down south that way my Mom can get to visit all of her family and relatives in the short time she's here. This year we want to switch things up a bit. I would love to take a cruise over to the Greek Islands.  I still have yet to go to Greece and every year I say I'm going to but I never do so hopefully this year I'll get a chance to.

So in case any of you are interested in visiting Italy any time soon, I've picked out some of my favorite summer vacations spots you can consider that are not your usual touristy places like Rome, Naples or Milan but that are really worth a visit.

Porto Cesareo 

Porto Cesareo is located in the province of Lecce on the coast of the Ionian Sea and is famous for its long beaches and sandy bottoms that remain low for many meters.  Since it is located in the gulf area, it really has a Caribbean type vibe and is just a spectacular vacation spot...by far my favorite in Southern Italy. It's relatively close to Brindisi, where my family is from so it's where we usually go on the weekends when the weather is nice. The best time to visit is between May and July and in September. In August it is PACKED with people so be prepared to book early because waiting 'til the last minute is not that great of an idea if your planning on visiting Porto Cesareo in August.  
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There are many places to stay in Porto Cesareo but if I had to recommend a Resort I would definitely suggest Le Dune Suite Hotel . It is located right on the beach and it is a relatively new hotel with a beautiful Spa and private beaches for their guests. It also has 3 restaurants within the hotel.

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Santa Caterina al Bagno


There are so many beautiful places to visit if you are in that area. Just a few kilometres away is a small town called Santa Caterina al Bagno which is a lovely beach town with lots of shops to visit. While there really aren't that many sandy beaches here as it is more of a reefy area it is still a sight to see and great for snorkeling and fishing.

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Porto Selvaggio

There is also a very secluded "secret" beach... which is not so secret anymore... called Porto Selvaggio which is also in the same area as Porto Cesareo and Santa Caterina al Bagno.  It is a natural reserve and can only be reached by taking a long ass hike which kind of sucks because if you are going there to take a swim it's probably like 100° outside and you're most likely trucking along a beach umbrella, bag, toys, etc. etc. and you probably will be really uncomfortable. This is a picture of the hike from Santa Caterina al Bagno to Porto Selvaggio:

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But once you get there.....YOU'RE IN PARADISE...

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The places I've listed above are all pretty close to each other and it is by far my favorite place to be in the summer and I highly recommend it to anyone.  The entire Puglia region is breathtakingly beautiful but this spot here takes the cake in my opinion.

Moving up to central Italy my second favorite place to visit is ....yes...Tuscany. The colors, the wine, the people, the FOOD... to die for.  Obviously you are already aware of the more famous Tuscan cities which are Florence, Pisa and Livorno and I love visiting them all. The people in Tuscany are the sweetest, very generous and friendly and I have seriously considered moving there because it is one of the most beautiful regions in Italy. Mr. Amore and I frequently visit Tuscany on long weekends because it's not that far and we have found that one of our favorite places to stay is:

Montepulciano

Montepulciano is located in the Province of Sienna and it is a medieval town situated of a limestone cliff about 40 miles from Sienna. Montepulciano is known world wine for its wine and you can be certain that whenever we go there we stock up on our vino rosso!

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We buy our Red rigorously at the Cantina Contucci located in the heart of the town. It is a family owned winery and the owners are the nicest people. The Contucci family has been producing wine since the Renaissance period! We're talking 1700's so they know what they're doing! 

It's a tiny little hole in the wall when you see it from the street


But then you walk it and it's like...BAM...

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When we visit Montepulciano we always stay at Villa Poggiano.  It's a very cozy hotel with great service and offers lots of activities including a cooking class as well as hiking and backpacking tours. 

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The Alps - South Tyrol

Moving further up the peninsula...(I feel like a weather hostess)...another AMAZING place to visit in the summer are the Alps in Trentino Alto Aldige specifically the South Tyrol area.   We stay in a small town called Ahrntal which is very close to the Austrian border. It's funny the first time I went there I was surprised as the people living there speak a German dialect that is typical of the area and many don't even speak Italian. 
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We love visiting each year and I always leave feeling so refreshed and relaxed. We get lots of exercise when we go here as it is a place where you do lots of bike riding and hiking. So if you're into sports and wellness this is the place to visit.

It has a very "Sound of Music" vibe. It's gorgeous in the summer as well as winter.

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It's definitely not as hot in the summer as it is in the south and the air is so pure and clean from pollution and smog. We hit all the trails whenever we go and get a great workout. Here are the maps we use which are available at the location.  This particular mountain is called Speikboden





Whenever we go we stay at the Schwarzenstein Resort & Wellness Center.  This is an all inclusive resort with a premium Spa area that has 10 different saunas that are included in the price and that you can use whenever you want. This place is truly good for the soul. 

So those are the places that I have very much enjoyed and I wanted to share them with you because they are not your usual touristy cities.  This is more of an insiders perspective to some beautiful Italian places to visit that aren't that well known to tourists but that are definitely worth the visit if you get a chance. 

Hope you are having a great week! 

xoxo

Silvana

Friday, March 3, 2017

Floral Living Room Refresh & Plate Wall Design

Hello lovelies! I'm so excited to share this post with you because I'm finally finished with my spring living room refresh and it has become my favorite space in the house simply because it puts me in a bright and sunny mood and I am SO looking forward to some warmer weather, I don't know about you. 


Since the last time I posted about my vintage plate collection, I scored a gorgeous original Alfred Meakin plate set for 30€!! Can you believe that? A set like this runs at least 250€.  I found the set online from a lady in Naples that was getting rid of a bunch of items from her previous marriage.  This set was a wedding gift that never even got used and was just sitting in her china cabinet. She was glad to get rid of it and I was glad to take it from her!



So on deciding the placement for the wall decor, I just played around with some different size pieces, mixing up the various styles. I didn't want them all the same style so I used some Blue Willow, some Liberty Blue and some of the Alfred Meakin plates and just laid them out until I found the placement that I was happy with. 



I knew I wanted to switch up my curtains with something lighter and brighter and I found a beautiful cotton fabric that I just fell in love with. I love all things floral and I found that this fabric print was neutral enough to match the rest of the decor without making things seem too busy. 


I made slipcovers for two of my Ikea Henriksdal chairs with the same fabric as the curtains and was debating on covering all six chairs but then I figured it would be too much. The white chairs keeps things neutral and they tie in nicely with the couch since it's an open space. 



Here is the Henriskdal cover pattern I used to make these if anyone is interested (it's not to scale I know... please don't mind my terrible drawing...):




Anyways, then I added frames to the canvases in my living room because I always thought they looked too unfinished for my taste. I love the lightness that a canvas brings to a room but it just looks much more complete by adding a simple frame. This was not the easiest project for me since it was the first time I used a miter saw but I don't think it turned out too shabby! Here is a before and after so you can see the difference. 

Before


During


After




I switched up the art work that I originally had on the plate wall and found these two prints that I think go well with the rest of the room. 



I placed the old frames on the staircase which has a huge empty wall that needed some lovin'...haha


And that pretty much wraps up my spring living room refresh.  Hope you enjoyed the tour. 



Here's a view from the top of the stairs. 


Have a great weekend! 

xoxo,